What are the barriers to employment for young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) or who have experience of care? What works best to support them? In partnership with the Education Development Trust (EDT), our latest report draws conclusions from a survey of practitioners and young people to understand the barriers they face, what services are offered, and what is considered to work best in helping NEET young people – and especially care leavers – to progress into work.

More than one in ten young people in the UK between the ages of 16 and 24 are classified as not in employment, education or training (NEET), and the rate of youn

g people being NEET has not fallen below 10% over the last twenty years. We know that being NEET can have immediate negative consequences for a young person, such as decreasing levels of self-esteem, increasing the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviours such as substance misuse and criminal activities, and increasing their chances of living in poverty. While there has been much research into the factors that lead to becoming NEET, how these can be mitigated, and the impacts of being NEET, there is not the same body of evidence to inform the support provided to young people to move into and stay in education, employment and training (EET).

This study looks at what the existing research has to say and surveys young people and the practitioners who work with them on four key questions:

  • What is currently offered in terms of in-work support for young people and care leavers?
  • What are the key barriers to EET for young people and care leavers who are NEET?
  • What is currently offered to young people and care leavers in terms of entry to EET support?
  • What types of provision are most effective at dealing with the barriers young people face to EET?

Drawing out lessons for practitioners and policymakers, this study contributes to our understanding of what young people see as the issues, the support they need and what service providers are offering to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

The executive summary and full survey report ‘Entry and retention in the labour market: Narratives and solutions for NEET and care leaver employment support’ can be accessed here.

Policy and recommendations summary here.

Elementor #15550

Employability Day 2023 takes place on Friday 30 June. This year’s theme is: #WorkingForBetterWork.

The UK labour market is transforming in front of us. 4.4 million people worked in the gig economy last year; working from home is now the norm for many sectors of the economy; in-work poverty and universal credit; economic inactivity and the flight of older people from the labour market; green jobs and emerging technologies.

The work ERSA members have done over the past decade has kept long-term unemployment down, supported millions of people to overcome their barriers to work. ERSA members have created a community of employability specialists all over the UK and have done the difficult job of keeping the labour market developing effectively even during times that are challenging.

At the core of ERSA’s members is their drive and determination to create solutions for a fairer labour market. Over twenty years, the sector has developed their offer alongside huge changes in society and economy. Supporting a person’s journey to work is one of the most rewarding achievements and the UK has an advantage because it has ERSA members.

Ready to join ERSA membership?

Apply now following these easy steps

  1. Find your previous 12 months of turnover, and check which category applies here
    • full membership relates only to turnover of employment support services
    • associate membership is your total turnover from all sources
  2. Read the terms and conditions of membership
  3. Complete the online application here
  4. Start enjoying exclusive membership benefits

UK Shared Prosperity Fund news for England

Please share ERSA’s post on Linkedin here and twitter here.

ERSA has been working on replacement of the European Social Fund for employment, skills and anti poverty programmes since 2016. More recently we have engaged with Ministers, Number 10, DWP and DLUHC arguing that England’s People and Skills be brought forward to 2023. We know what employment support providers can and should be delivering now!

Therefore, we are relieved and pleased to have received this communication today:

“The Prime Minister recently set out a clear direction to focus on building the skills capability of people across the UK, so that they can realise their potential and increase workforce participation rates and our prosperity and productivity as a country.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is already well aligned with this goal as the main source of funding to support economically inactive individuals move towards employment. To maximise the impact of the Fund in this area, we will remove the restriction on people and skills spending from April 2023 in England. This will enable lead local authorities to allocate UKSPF funding to any people and skills intervention to an individual, partnership or any delivery partner, during the second and third year of the Fund. Previously, this flexibility was not available in England until April 2024.

We will continue to stand by our pledge to let local places decide what is best for their areas, working closely with key stakeholders, and deploy funds flexibly across the local growth agenda and UKSPF funded employment priorities which are intended to dovetail with the national Department for Work and Pensions offer and other locally delivered complimentary support, including Multiply. To support the effectiveness of this suite of provision for recipients and to minimise administrative burdens on lead authorities and providers, we continue to advise lead authorities to work collectively across broader geographies to ensure the package of employment and skills interventions are fully integrated.

This change will be done with the least amount of bureaucracy as lead local authorities can make these changes through routine end-of-year reporting, no additional notifications to DLUHC will be required”.

ERSA’s work on SPF will continue.

ERSA’s work on UKSPF

Contact the team via policy@ersa.org.uk if you have something to share!

Policy briefing: Job guarantee and rotation – a way towards an inclusive labour market?

Job guarantee and rotation: a way towards an inclusive labour market?
A policy briefing by Professor David Etherington, Staffordshire University and Elizabeth Taylor, Employment Related Services Association (July 2022)

There is a view that ‘official’ unemployment rates mask a substantial hidden unemployment according to researchers from Sheffield Hallam University. They argue that the substantial increase in economically inactive and those claiming long term health benefits should be viewed as comprising a rising number of long term unemployed.[1] A large proportion of this cohort, with the appropriate health, training, and childcare support, could be able to access available jobs.

There are therefore calls for a back-to-work strategy involving a Job Guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed which also involves pathways to vocational training.[2] Job Rotation (JR) can play a crucial role in such a strategy, linking a range of tried and tested employability support (including pre-employment training and coaching), lifelong learning and in-work support. Evaluations show a high rate of job retention – around 75% of unemployed JR participants gain permanent jobs.[3] More important the model plays a crucial role in upskilling the economy.

With the phasing out of the Job Retention Scheme and the Kickstart programme, this is a particularly opportune time to be thinking about Job Rotation. Is it an idea whose time has come?

What is Job Rotation?

The model enables employees to be released from work to undertake study, by replacing them with substitutes who have been unemployed. Through this model, those otherwise excluded from the workforce, are given a unique opportunity for paid work experience and vocational training. Employers benefit because production continues while staff are freed up to develop their skills. This model has been mainstreamed in some European countries, and successfully piloted in Scotland. An essential ingredient of the JR model is the role of social dialogue and the bringing together of relevant labour market partners, including trade unions and worker representatives.

There is a resurgence of JR initiatives in Denmark[4] promoted by the Government, trade unions and Danish local government association (KL). There have also been small-scale initiatives in the UK.[5]

How does JR work?

The JR process is based on a seamless rotation model comprised of:

  • Identifying the training needs of low-skilled workers in a participating organisation. Unemployed ‘substitutes’ can free up workers for training without the organisation losing production/service delivery. This involves a team made up of employers, employment and skills services and workers/unemployed representatives -usually the trade unions.
  • Unemployed individuals are targeted to apply for JR jobs. Unemployment benefits are topped up so they work for the agreed rate for the job, usually at the Living Wage.
  • Unemployed individuals receive pre-employment and in-work mentoring (this could be performed by Work Coaches in Jobcentres or provider caseworkers), as well as access to vocational courses.
  • Workers in participant organisations can access apprenticeships and Apprenticeship Levy.

How could it be funded?

There is no hard and fast prescribed model but it generally involves:

  • Budget for a wage subsidy (benefit with top-up to make up to the Living Wage for unemployed substitutes) which can involve some matching fund by employers
  • Budget for pre-employment mentoring and training
  • Budget for in-work training for unemployed substitutes
  • Budget for vocational training for existing employees

This could involve packaging funds from a range of sources (e.g. employment programmes, Universal Credit, the Apprenticeship Levy and LEP-matched funds).

What are the benefits of Job Rotation?

(1) JR meets three separate but inter-related needs of local economies: tackling unemployment, addressing skills shortages, encouraging business development through staff training and learning and the promotion of Lifelong Learning.

 (2) JR helps disadvantaged labour market groups by providing a period of paid work placement, along with the opportunity to improve their vocational skills and qualifications.

(3) Employers reap the benefits of enhanced training for existing employees, and the enhanced capabilities of future employees, improving their retention, reducing turnover and saving costs to their business.

We know that it’s difficult to engage employers/businesses in programmes, largely due to the number and complexity of programmes[6]. The JR model is effective and efficient in reaching its target groups and reduces the potential for programme duplication and employers being approached by multiple providers.[7]

A number of smaller businesses could be connected to secure volume in the JR activity, allowing the development of bespoke courses for employees from the different companies. This is already a tried and tested approach in the employability sector that improves employer engagement. For example, in Health and Social Care, JR could provide career routes for low-skilled workers without loss of staffing cover for essential services.

There is scope for Combined Authorities and City Regions to pilot and test this model in local and regional labour markets in the UK, with potential for scalability. JR provides opportunities for unemployed people and upskills existing employees. It can be applied in both public and private sectors and could be particularly useful for sectors or businesses who struggle to recruit and could be a solution to the UK’s long-lamented under-skilled labour market.

[1] Beatty C and Fothergill S (2022) The Real Level of Unemployment 2022: The Myth of Full Employment across Britain, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University

[2] https://learningandwork.org.uk/news-and-policy/act-now-to-tackle-record-rise-in-unemployment-and-prevent-long-term-damage/



[3] Kruhøffer J (2007) Job Rotation in Europe as the Feasibility environment for the Jobrotation e-Service, Berlin AOF

[4] https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/emcc/erm/support-instrument/ob-rotation

[5] Etherington D (2008) A strategy for an inclusive labour market, Feasibility Study for a Job Rotation Pilot for Incapacity Benefit Claimants in Ealing, Report to Ealing Primary Care NHS Mental Health Trust, London, Middlesex University

[6] https://business.leeds.ac.uk/downloads/download/91/ceric_-_employer_engagement_in_active_labour_market_programmes_in_the_uk_and_denmark_final_report

[7] https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.myiep.uk/resource/resmgr/docs/iep_journal_issue_1_-_june_2.pdf

Research Note | July 2022

UK Economic Policy, Inflation & Employment Support
Author: Dr Andrew Morton, Labour Market, Policy and Research Officer
Research Note | July 2022

This note will look that the emerging economic policy context within which employment support will have to operate over the next few years. Understanding an economic context marked by high inflation, the cost of living crisis that results and a labour market weighed down by very high vacancies will be important for an employment support sector. In historical terms, the economic problems we’re looking at coming out of a pandemic are also quite unusual, some of these problems however that will become more familiar as the prospects of a new recession become much more real. This will be particularly apparent as the government borrowing binge of the pandemic pushes us towards a familiar political context defined by a politics of debt reduction. As we all remember, amidst the wreckage of the 2008 financial crisis economic policy goals in the UK were framed so tightly around the need to service high levels of public debt (which rose sharply to prop up a collapsing banking sector) that nearly all other policy areas drawn into the same agenda. To reduce the cost to the public purse, employment policy, welfare policy and broader public services all suffered either direct (and huge) cuts in spending or, in the case of welfare, a concerted campaign to push unemployed people off welfare (into jobs, education or, simply, wherever).

At the moment, economic policy makers are losing sleep about inflation rather than a problem public debt, but given the level of spending and borrowing that had to be undertaken since March 2022, we should certainly expect the servicing of public debt to re-emerge as driving force economic policy. What could make the next recession even worse is if rampant inflation and its effects do not relent by the time central banks like the Bank of England, economic policy-makers and other power brokers like the bond markets decide fiscal retrenchment is a good idea once again. This prospects of this double-headed monster is very real.

This note will map these issues out but will make this point clear: the case for targeted and extensive employment support and a strong employment support sector is as critical as it has ever been. This support however requires financial as well as organisational assistance that will not helped if this double-headed monster emerges this year or next.

Economic policy-making and good employment policy

The health of the labour market – employment, productivity, wages – are clearly important to macroeconomic policy-makers. As the not-too-distant-example of the financial crisis demonstrates however, it’s not necessarily going to be top of the list of priorities. Back in 2008, it was public debt that was the driving force behind economic policy. At the moment it is inflation.

It is necessary first to note that, when we refer to ‘policy-makers’ in this context, we include not only government ministers, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in particular, but also central bankers – and in Britain’s case the Governor and Monetary Policy Board (MPC) of the Bank of England (BoE). Inflation is the central concern of monetary policy, whilst taxing and spending defines fiscal policy. Although clearly connected, they do not necessarily move in tandem nor coherently. The BoE however is the entity that, in practice, interacts with the bond market to secure financing for government spending should planned spending exceed available tax receipts. With this in mind, the BoE clearly has an interest in the state of domestic fiscal policy. At the moment however, like other central banks like the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve, the BoE is most concerned with the rate of inflation and how it can use its main policy lever– interest rates – to tackle it. The negative effect inflation has on interest paid on government debt however presents a source of BoE pressure on the Treasury and its spending plans.

Central bankers have tended adhere to orthodox macroeconomic principles identified with “sound money”, which is why when they’re given the opportunity to obsess about inflation they usually take it. This is not to say inflation is currently not a problem (it clearly is), only that as a question of emphasis this concern can lead to skewed priorities which has not historically boded well for advocates of comprehensive or ‘full’ employment policies. So in this sense, ‘sound money’ sees approaches to macroeconomic management rely on concepts that are more interested in the price level than with full employment. This produces a reliance on economic concepts such as the Philips curve and the ‘non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment’ or ‘NAIRU’. The NAIRU operates upon the idea that there is a ‘natural rate’ of (un)employment and that policy attempts to raise employment above (and lower unemployment below) this rate will generate inflation. As a result, the dominance of devices like the NAIRU have rarely been helpful for integrating ambitious employment policy into macroeconomic policy agendas form the 1970s onwards. In tandem with restrictive inflation targeting, this was always going to affect the long-term unemployed, and those vulnerable to it the most, as it made it harder to advocate and fund policies and services to help them.

This focus on such principles has had another consequence which the pandemic era economic context has laid bare: the relationship between the employment level and vacancies. The record high number of vacancies we began to see since mid-2021 has demanded policy-makers become reacquainted with the Beveridge curve, a concept that for most of the last 50-60 years has sat in the shadow of the more famous ‘Phillips curve’. In 1989, notable macroeconomist Olivier Blanchard and colleague Peter Diamond made this point below, one which has renewed relevance now.

“macroeconomists thinking about aggregate labour market dynamics have organized their thoughts around two relations, the Phillips curve and the Beveridge curve. The Beveridge curve, the relation between unemployment and vacancies, has very much played second fiddle. We think that emphasis is wrong. The Beveridge relation comes conceptually first and contains essential information about the functioning of the labour market and the shocks that affect it.”

Blanchard and Diamond (1989) 

There is no one single ‘big lesson’ for economic management post-pandemic, but several. One of them however must be that a stubborn disconnect between employment level and high number vacancies needs targeted policy intervention and support. This will require macro-economic policy-makers in the BoE and the Treasury to see that part of the inflation problem lies in a labour market and a wage-price spiral which is already looking menacingly difficult to control (due to other factors like energy prices and the supply chain crunch).

“these issues [won’t] go away on their own, and the longer we hold off taking action to address them the greater the problems for employers, for our recovery from the pandemic, and for those out of work…So we need a new Plan for Participation, that will extend our public employment services and support to all of those who are out of work and want help”

The Institute for Employment Studies, Labour Market Update December 2021.

If high vacancy rates aren’t being addressed because of high barriers for parts of the unemployed population (i.e. health concerns, care support) then this needs targeted policy support to be addressed. If high vacancy rates aren’t being addressed because of wide skills mismatch then this needs targeted policy support to also be made available and funded. It will involve joined up thinking however, one that can combine employment policy, education and skills, health, welfare as well as economic policy.